Why full health and safety training and support is still important to those staff who are agile workers and perhaps spending less time physically in the workplace.
Workers out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind for effective training
If your business or organisation practices agile working then it’s likely that this entails some of your staff being away from the workplace for some or maybe all of their work time. This doesn’t mean you should skimp or otherwise ignore their health and safety provisions; indeed, it could be argued it’s even more important to ensure proper training and measures are in place for those staff you perhaps don’t see so much of.
Do you implement agile working?
It’s important to clarify what agile working means – or rather, to understand the differences between it and flexible working or out and out home working. Agile working isn’t simply another way of saying ‘flexitime’ and neither is it another description for those working from home.
Agile working may well incorporate flexible hours working and elements of not being in the physical workplace such as working from home, but that’s by no means all it entails. The general definition of agile working is focusing more on ‘getting the job done’ to certain standards and deadlines however that happens rather than a focus on what times an employee works, where they work and (within reason) how they work.
So if you do implement agile working, it’s important to observe health and safety just as you would for workplace-based employees. Agile working, more possible through advances in communication technology, has many advantages for both the employer and employee but there are potential drawbacks that a sound health and safety policy will help mitigate.
Health and safety issues for agile workers
The following aspects may require training and attention:
Aware of workplace health and safety standards
Your agile workers should be included in any health and safety training you organise and receive updates you make to your health and safety policies. They will likely spend at least some time in the office or workplace, so they need to be up to speed.
Best work practices
There’s much to communicate to them about working from other locations such as home. Using ergonomically sound furniture such as chairs and good lighting is important; if your support includes providing equipment they use at home then it’s essential they understand the importance and value of using it properly.
If your employee drives as part of their work, then they should be encouraged to only take or make calls when they’re stationary. Even hands free should be used sparingly as talking on the phone is still taking concentration away from driving.
You may organise someone within your company to visit your agile workers’ own workplaces such as their home set up, whether a spare room or bespoke office, to ensure effective risk management. If not, your employee should regularly complete risk assessment profiles to ensure best practices are being adhered to.
Working for prolonged periods alone can make an employee less effective and lack of contact can, in certain cases after a while, impair good mental functioning. A support system whereby agile workers regularly ‘check in’ or get together – even if only remotely via Skype or similar – is a way of reducing solitude.
Another potential risk is when remote working employees don’t separate their domestic situation from their work environment effectively.
For example, not ‘switching off’ by finishing work at specific times and allowing it to seep into personal time is an easy trap to fall into. Similarly, allowing domestic distractions to interfere with work time is easily possible. Either of these situations can eventually cause stress related illnesses if left unchecked.
If you have many agile working employees, then it may even be worthwhile to appoint someone to spend some of their time performing a type of ‘pastoral support’ role for these staff.
By keeping in contact with and addressing any concerns with agile workers, along with ensuring they’re receiving the latest health and safety training and updates and just generally ‘keeping in touch,’ you’ll continue to get the best out of your lesser seen staff.